Unpolished and sparse, Nick Jaina’s Snakes & Umbrellas excels at understatement. Recorded simply, his jazz influenced pop is eclectic but approachable, and his charged lyrics are intelligent without having to try. Every element of Snakes & Umbrellas makes it a hidden gem without hiding Nick Jaina’s talent as a singer and songwriter.
The unaffected simplicity of Jaina’s music is evident in these tales about growing up. Reflective without dipping into nostalgia, Jaina’s quiet thoughtfulness reveals an obvious affection for his subject matter without idealizing it. From “Queen of Chips” to “Mother’s Calm”, Jaina’s sleepy voice leads listeners into a world that may have appeared innocent but never felt that way.
Utilizing acoustic guitars with the occasional brass instrument or accordian, Jaina’s arrangements are loose but affective, complimenting Jaina’s sensitive but matter-of-fact delivery. This gives his songs a mischievous quality of both attitude and understanding. His hushed voice and uncomplicated instrumentation makes these songs into serene confessions and snapshots of moments.
Snakes & Umbrellas’ lyrics are both playful and pensive, often at the same time. While he writes about emptiness and loss in his search for himself, these subjects never weigh down his music. On “Lindy Freidenfelt” he sings “Loneliness is tragic but you get to feel such magic” as almost a summary to his approach to life. On the sweet song, “The Door Was Unlocked”, Jaina sings “I feel weak when I get off the phone with you” with a mix of disbelief and affection. Jaina’s lyrics are as smart and as simple as his music.
While Jaina balances the subdued songs with brighter pieces, Snakes & Umbrellas is not at all an upbeat album. Its drowsier moments tend to wear it down, but fortunately songs like “Tsunami” and “Good Ideas” bring it back up. It feels complete.
Snakes & Umbrellas shows that Nick Jaina’s talent shines brightly, if a bit unrefined. His obvious gifts for observation and composition make his music refreshingly unadulterated.
// Notes from the Road
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